When Charles Hill was shot and killed by BART police officers on July 3, few knew who he was. It took the coroner nearly a week to find his family.
But on the streets where he often lived, Hill, 45, was well known.
Several homeless people and social workers in San Francisco said they recognized his weather-beaten, bearded face from around the Civic Center area, near the BART station where he was killed.
Michael Kirby — who was waiting for a room at a St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter where Hill sometimes stayed — said that Hill was a “loner" and a “heavy drinker.”
“He would drink, he would scream, he would rant and then he would pass out,” said Kirby. “That was basically his MO.”
Kirby and others said that Hill was known to be verbally abusive, but at 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 150 pounds, he was not considered a physical threat.
“People usually would attack him, because he didn't know how to back off,” said Kirby. “He would just keep screaming whatever he was screaming.”
At a public meeting Tuesday, BART police Chief Kenton Rainey offered new details about Hill's behavior before the shooting. Rainey said that Hill was armed with "two knives," not one, as BART had previously stated.
According to Rainey, Hill was also drunk and holding an open bottle. Rainey said Hill used the knives and the bottle "as offensive weapons,” although the chief refused to say whether Hill injured one of the officers, who was treated for a cut.
A witness to the shooting told The Bay Citizen last week that Hill was moving slowly toward the two officers, who had their guns drawn. Myleen Hollero said that Hill was “definitely” not “running or lunging” at the officers when three shots were fired, killing Hill. Hollero said Hill was wearing a green tie-dye T-shirt and was balding, with long, white hair. "He just looked like a drunk hippie," she said.
Hill appears to have been homeless for years, according to public records and interviews with homeless people and social workers. Fifteen years ago, when he was 30, Hill was arrested for trespassing in Multnomah County, Oregon. When law enforcement officers there asked Hill where he lived, he gave them the address of St. Anthony Foundation, a shelter in San Francisco.
Hill has a criminal history, but has never been charged with a crime in San Francisco, according to Ann Donlan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Superior Court.